The radio can be harnessed as a tool to reduce loneliness, isolation and depression among older people, a study suggests.
Dr Amanda Krause, a Melbourne University music psychologist, is conducting a study of the radio listening habits of older Australians.
While there has been extensive research into the listening habits of young adults, much less is known about older people.
For the first phase of an ongoing research project Krause surveyed 25 people aged 66-87 living in regional and metropolitan Melbourne.
She found that the radio often accompanied them in their daily lives as a social presence and a source of entertainment and information.
“This is a long-standing, easy-to-use, cost-effective tool … we can get social presence, we can get information, we can get entertainment all from the radio,” she said during a presentation of phase one findings at the AAG National Conference in Melbourne on Wednesday.
“This is a really important thing to consider in terms of how we can look at radio to help with wellbeing.”
Radio also offered a way of making older people feeling socially connected and putting them in a positive mood.
Australia had a strong radio presence with more than 450 community stations as well as national and commercial stations, Krause said.
Many older people formed surprisingly close bonds with radio presenters.
“What I really did not expect was the depth of the bond that people would talk about having with these presenters,” she said.
“The importance of the announcer was very clear. This is a voice, this is a person that you develop a very strong relationship with.
“So even if you’re at home by yourself, you’re able to participate in a conversation, and I really want to think about how to build better programing in order to benefit older people and support companionship.
“It’s a new way of thinking about it, it’s not just something that’s passively on in the background.”
Building radio into routines
Krause says the radio was also often built into routines, such as sleeping.
“Sleeping is a very common time where might would be routines, either ‘it helps me fall asleep’, or ‘it’s my alarm, it helps me wake up’,” she said.
“There’s a lot to be done about how this can be built into routines.”
Krause says the study shows the potential of radio for reducing loneliness and isolation, and raises the question of how to optimise programing to achieve this and ensure the healthy use of listening.
She’ll be using the results of her study to talk with people involved in radio programing, volunteers and radio hosts to see how the benefits of radio can be improved.
“If we can shift moods we need to do this in a very calculated and cautious way,” she told Community Care Review.
“What I’m hoping to do is take these findings and talk to radio hosts and programers so they can implement programing that considers these things.
“I really am encouraged by the idea of how people can use the radio as a form of companionship.”
Guidelines on radio as a wellbeing tool
Krause says she’d like to see the development of guidelines about how to use the radio as a tool for older people and those who care for them.
“I’m really excited to take those findings and marry it with whether I can get radio programmers to consider the wellbeing of their listeners, or if I can get them to consider it to help that process.
“I think we can work as a team to translate this into the community.”
Radio stations wanting to get involved can find the project website here.
The conference continues on Thursday.